The Reward

   By the time that I got there the search had been going for quite some time. I was assigned the far side of the mountain and since I was a seasoned mountain climber and new the area well, I was not assigned a partner. My job were simple...look for signs that would indicate if they were moving in that direction.

   Plans were made for me to check in at prearranged times and I took my gear and headed out. The climb was easy, so I made it to the top of the ridge in about an hour. I called in on the radio phone they had given me to report my progress and reported that, so far, no signs of the two men had turned up. I used my binoculars to look at the far side of the canyon and the parts of the canyon bottom that could be seem. There were a lot of trees and some dense under growth so I took my time and slowly searched the area. I didn't see anything that would indicate that anyone was there or had been there.

   I reported in and informed them where I was ,and so far, I had not seen evidence of anyone being there. I reported that I was going on over to the next ridge. It took me a little over two hours to reach the next ridge and I saw nothing that would indicate that anyone had recently been in that canyon.

   But when I reached the next ridge and crossed it, I found their foot prints just below the ridge. They were headed down and walking just far enough below the top of ridge to not be seen and yet high enough on the side of the canyon not to get tangled in the thick scrub.

   They were smart. They could get to the top and look for anyone following them, and if they had to, they could disappear down into the scrub.

    I crossed the canyon and hiked to the top of the ridge. I had been careful, to be sure they didn't see me. I was surprised that they weren't that far ahead. The ridges on their foot prints were still crisp and sharp. They weren't running like crazy men but, taking it slow and careful like someone stalking an animal. However, in this case, they were the ones being stalked but, they were not stupid enough to panic.

   I sat on a rock, drank a sip of water and checked in with the control center. I knew if I reported that I had located the two killers, command would redirect the search and it wouldn't be long before we had them boxed in. I also knew that was when the real danger would begin. A trapped animal is a dangerous animal. So are trapped humans. I had been warned that they were were armed and ready to kill anyone coming after them. I also knew that there was a reward...a large reward for the person or persons that caught them.

   I didn't tell command that I had located them. I planned on catching them myself. I planned on getting that reward. My child's life depended on that reward. I told command that they were not, and had not been in the area that I had covered. I informed them that I was going over one more ridge.

   I ate a small piece of jerky, sipped some water and began my hunt. I didn't follow their tracks but cut across the canyon to the next ridge because I knew that they would have to do the same thing. There were several blooms of dust on the flats below the canyons and the flats below our canyon were wide open and aforded little cover.

   I made the other ridge in just over two hours which put the time into the mid afternoon  I crossed the ridge and headed down the far side because I knew they would not see me. About half way down the canyon I edge to the top of the ridge and began scanning the area below me with the binoculars.

   I sipped some more water, ate some jerky and waited. I checked my rifle and my pistol to make sure they were loaded and ready. I had decided to take a small caliber rifle that I normally used for small game.  It was 22 caliber bolt action with a scope. The weapon wasn't one that I would normally take if I waned to kill big game or a man but I didn't want to kill my prey. If I had to shoot them, I wanted them to live through it. But, if necessary, a bullet in the head from a 22 caliber would kill someone with no problem at all.

  It wasn't long, maybe 30 or 40 minutes, before I spotted them about 300 yards below me struggling to get through the dense scrub brush. I smiled. Round one was decided in my favor. I watched them until they stumbled out of the brush and stopped in a grove of pine trees to rest. I edged my way down the mountain, stopping every few minutes to make sure they were still holed up in the pines.

   When I got to within 75 yards of them, I stopped, sipped a little water and sucked on some jerky.  I checked my rifle again and used the scope to watch them in the trees. One had a foot out in the open.  I steadied my scope on the ankle and slowly squeezed the trigger. The rifle made a soft cracking noise and the man below me yelped in pain.

   I could see both men scrambling to get behind a tree, any tree. I kept a steady breath and watched and waited. I knew what they were thinking and I knew they would feel that they had no choice but to run. The question was whether they would both take off or just the one that hadn't been shot.

   I knew that when the break came, I would have to be quick and sure. I would get just one shot and I had to make sure it hit the one that wasn't already wounded. I guessed that their plan would be for the unwounded man to draw fire away from the wounded one.  In that way they would both have a chance to escape. I decided I would shoot the first one to make a break. I knew I could always catch up with the one that I had already wounded.

  I also knew that the one to run would use the pine trees for cover so I picked an opening the pines on the far side of where I was and I was right. I had my scope pointed right at the spot that they he ran through. My scope picked up the back part of his left thigh but, as I squeezed the trigger he went down like he had been hit with an axe. My bullet harmlessly kicked up a puff of dirt. I moved the scope to his head and saw a big ugly hole where his eye should have been and that the back side of his head was missing. He was dead before he hit the ground.

  Shit, was all I think of to say and as I said it, another shot rang out and the second man lost a good part of his head.

   "We got em," someone yelled. "We got both those no good bastards."

   Two men walked out of the scrub brush and went to claim their trophies. They didn't look up in my direction so I was sure that they didn't even know I was there. They didn't realize that I had already shot the one man in the ankle.

   I swore very softly realizing that those bastards were going to get the reward that had worked so hard for and needed so badly. I thought about my sick child and I needed that money and decided that I wasn't going to let them steal my reward and my child's life.

   They were standing in the open smoking cigarettes and obviously gloating over their kill and telling each other how they were going to spend the money. I scoped the head of the tallest one and put a bullet through his temple. The other turned toward the sound of my rifle and I put a bullet right between his eyes.

  I walked down to where the four dead men were laying. I sat on a rock and sipped some more water trying to figure out just how I was going to make it look like the two murderers had shot the men hunting them and I had killed murderers in self defense.

   I didn't figure on anyone reaching that spot in a jeep but that was what happened.  Before I could come up with any plausible explanation, I heard a jeep making its way up the canyon. I decided that the best thing for me to do was take off and let them try and figure out what had happened.

   I grabbed a piece of scrub brush and tried to erase any boot prints that I had made. I backed into the brush erasing my prints as I walked.  Once I was deep into the brush I turned and started running as fast as I could. I knew that there was not chance of me being heard as long as the jeep was still running.

  When the engine stopped, I slowed to a walk, being careful not to move the scrub or make any noise. I headed back up the canyon trying to make the top before anyone came looking. As I neared the crest of the ridge, two of the other hunters popped up from the other side. I was screwed.

  My mind raced. Should I kill them too? I knew them both. I had gone to high school with one of them. I knew his wife and children. I thought about the children and I knew that I couldn't kill those men and I knew that I could no longer help my child. I thought...Maybe if I were dead?

   I took the pistol from my holster. The last word I heard
 in my life was someone screaming.....don't!

Written for "Carry on Tuesday"...thanks Keith




  1. A gritty tale well told. Nice one.

  2. Not the ending I was expecting! A great story - kept me on the edge of my seat!

  3. A great atmosphere you created here. Gripping stuff!

  4. This is quite a story. You keep the reader guessing right up to the end. We still don't know whether or not the trigger was pulled!

    1. yes, once he realized how far he had gone and that he would not be able to help his child...he pulled the trigger...thanks for sticking with this was a little long for a blog story...most people won't take the time to read a long story but then neither do I unless the story grabs me quickly